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Page last updated at 12:52 GMT, Wednesday, 18 August 2010 13:52 UK
Bee Part Of It: Norfolk bee pollen studied in Worcester
Bees taking pollen back to the nucleus box at Felbrigg Hall
The study will provide a better understanding of how the colony works

BBC Norfolk's bee hive is being used as part of a scientific experiment to help understand the lifecycle of colonies.

By comparing it with other Bee Part Of It hives, the University of Worcester is hoping to find vital links between pollen sources and colony lifespan.

If a relationship is found, it could result in certain crops being planted over others to stop the bees' decline.

"We have experts who identify pollen grains," said Professor John Newbury from the University of Worcester.

"What we've been doing with beekeepers around the country is they've been sending us samples of the pollen the bees have been collecting, and hopefully soon honey samples.

"We can analyse the findings at the University of Worcester and tell exactly what the bees have been feeding on.

"Then we can keep a record of that and see next spring whether the bees that have been feeding heavily on crop plants, like oilseed rape, survive any better than those that have mainly been foraging in people's gardens."

Kensington Palace, London
Rockrose, eucalyptus, elderberry

University of Worcester
Lily, blackberry, rowan, oilseed rape, eucalyptus, dandelion

Nostell Priory, Yorkshire
Oilseed rape

Ham House, Surrey
Oilseed rape

Barrington Court, Somerset
Oilseed rape

Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk
Rose, blackberry, sweet pea, oilseed rape, unknown sample

Felbrigg bees

So what have the BBC Norfolk bees at Felbrigg Hall been gathering this summer?

"In mid July what we found was the bees had been visiting primarily rose, blackberry and sweet pea, with a bit of oilseed rape," said Professor Newbury.

"From a floral point of view that sounds fine, but you've got to remember that these female worker bees are basically working themselves to death.

"They do a bit of work around the hive when young, looking after the larvae for the next generation, ventilating the hive by beating their wings to produce air currents, and then they're off out and foraging. After 50-60 days they drop dead of exhaustion."

The Norfolk hive has also yielded an as yet unknown sample which has intrigued the experts.

If you want to encourage bees into your garden there are ways of doing this.

"Making sure there are flowers in your garden that bees are attracted to is extremely helpful," said Professor Newbury.

"Putting in a herb garden would be one of the easiest things because they love lavender, chives, rosemary and mint and you've got the advantage that herb gardens don't take a lot of looking after and you can use them for food," he added.

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